The National Book Foundation’s National Book Awards are one of the most awaited literary announcements. The ceremony took place Nov. 18 in New York City. And many of the winners and finalists will be at a reception Friday, Nov. 20 at the Miami Book Fair International.
This year, we also had our eye on the NBF “5 Under 35” program recognizing the next generation of stellar writers. Selected by past “5 Under 35” honorees and former National Book Award Winners, these are the names to keep an eye on. Each next-gen honoree wins $1,000 and will attend a special event hosted by the Miami Book Fair in the Spring of 2016.
The actor LeVar Burton will host the event. He is well known to Reading Rainbow audiences for his commitment to literacy and education – and to TV audiences for his work on Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation. “Every writer aspires to reach an audience,” Burton said. “The attention that is bestowed upon these nominees is tremendously effective in introducing new readers to their work.”
Our TW reporter Julia Aparicio asked each next-gen writer to share tips about achieving success.
Book: The Hopeful (Ig Publishing)
Selected by: Fiona Maazal
Tip: “Read until you have a sense of what words do when they are positioned in relation to each other. In other words, focus on craft. The writer’s job isn’t just to commit words to a page. It’s also to consider alternative routes. What would be evoked if this sentence occurred one paragraph down? What happens when these two words are replaced by one? In this way, writers aren’t simply writing one book. They’re considering which book of all the permutations is their own.”
Book: Young Skins (Black Cat / Grove Atlantic)
Selected by: Paul Yoon
Tip: “By writing and publishing standards, a book out by your early 30s counts as ‘young’ but for me. It was the end process of a more than decade-long period of serious attempts to write. It was a slow, up-and-down process, with lots of apparent dead ends and restarts. In my 20s, I went from writing poetry to trying novels before really getting into stories as both a reader and writer. Though at the time my life was rife with uncertainty and even frustration that I wasn’t a better, or at least more decisive and consistent writer. That haphazard trajectory was, in retrospect great, as I tried out lots of different styles and forms. So my advice would be: Try out everything. Don’t hinder yourself by staying loyal to your earliest conception of yourself as a writer. And take your time. Once the book is out, no one will else have cared how long it took to appear.”
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Book: Fra Keeler
Selected by: Dinaw Mengestu
Tip: “One thing that has served me is discipline. I learned early on that there are no shortcuts. There is no replacement for showing up every day. Of course there are times when I don’t write. But that, too, is taking care of my writing. During those times, I read or I take a walk. And I think about writing. That commitment, counterbalanced with a good dose of doubt, has been vital to my process.”
Book: Call Me Home
Selected by: Phil Klay
Tip: “Relentlessness, a dogged pursuit of the story you want to tell, is important. But thinking now of myself at 20 – agonized by my desire to become a writer – I wish I had understood that there is no timeline. You can be 30 or 60. But you have to sit down and write and then sit down again. Grant yourself that you already are a writer. Cultivate a family of other writers and readers and lovers of language. And keep working.”
Book: The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Selected by: ZZ Packer
Tip: “One thing I tried to do when writing my novel was focus on what was in my control. When I was alone, sitting at my desk on early mornings – that was in my control. I figured if I did my best on the aspects of the process that I have complete control over, everything else may or may not work out. But it wouldn’t be because I didn’t put in the time. If there’s one thing aspiring writers might learn from my success, it’s to trust yourself to take the time you need to write your story. Then worry about what’s next.”
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